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AMU’s failure: Morocco and Algeria disagreement

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To the most people who believe in the vision of rivalry and dreamt of regional power within their spheres of influence, the best idea of being a regional hegemon is creating a region union over a neighboring country. Meanwhile, AMU, in general, can bring North African countries altogether as one unified Arab regional power.

Almost 30 years from its creation of AMU, the Arab Maghreb Union was born in 1989 in Marrakech, Its creation was one of the most important integrations Arab regional Union. Its members are aimed to work together in order to enhance their common cooperation in term of security, social, economic and geopolitical. Yet, this idea of building this regional integration union at the beginning is to enforce regional cooperation and strengthen neighboring relations, At the same time; the geopolitical issues among neighboring countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Libya, and more importantly Western Sahara issue lead to different perspectives and interpretations of the continuation of AMU which undermine some AMU’s member foreign policy.

So far the issue of Western Sahara also played a very crucial issue in making AMU shakable and unsustainable. Therefore, if Algeria and Morocco would stand together to make their issues away of AMU then, the Arab regional union would dawn again.

Due to this, the significant failure of the Arab Maghreb Union is surely based on Morocco -Algeria conflictual relations. The Kingdom of Morocco pushed and tired harder several time to dissolve and evaporate their traditional dispute through sending dozens of diplomatic invitations to settled down for a real dialogue in order to overcome their issues concerning Western Sahara and territorial borders.

First of all, let’s make a short briefing about this regional conflict in the Arab Maghreb Union. this AMU was built weak and will die weak and feeble. After several calls from Morocco to Algeria, the Algerian government rejected Moroccan initiative letters to dissolve issues but Algeria made it clear for not collaborating or even though willing to respond, that means Algeria merely responsible for not cooperating to resolve regional issues as one of AMU members as well its one of the reasons through failure of Maghreb Union. Secondly, other AMU members felt that Algeria went far to help in sustaining AMU work effectively as it was built for, because most of the five Maghreb members are going to switch their ways to solve their issue by its own or seek for other African countries to cooperate with for example: currently Morocco start cooperating and connecting deeply with other African countries such as Ecowas regional group. In addition, Morocco, along with Tunisia and Mauritania which are seeking to follow Moroccan vision into Africa in order to diversify their national interests. However, Libya it’s an isolated case in AMU member because Libya currently live a very chaotic civil war and it’s hard to be seen more stable or peaceful in the upcoming years so far. Therefore, Algeria would remain itself isolated and unique.

The lack of regional cooperation and ineffective integration among non-Maghreb countries would cost less economic collaboration. Some recent statistics show the Maghreb region loses approximately 500 billion US dollars every year as a result of mismanagement of trade restrictions and legislative. The absence of commerce and trade marketing supplementary, the reflecting similarities in the frames of trade marketing and low export variety have also had great negative collisions on intra-Maghreb trade marketing. For instance, the supplementary of Libyan and Algerian exports with the imports from other Maghreb states is still very down. The kingdom of Morocco and Tunisia act actively much better as they are more advanced in the field of exportation than their neighbors which depend on products related on mineral and hydrocarbon.

As noted. despite economic bilateral relations between the Kingdom of Morocco and Tunisia stays low potential, the scope of their under trading progress has decreased. The Agadir free trade regional agreement has improved ease up trade and opened opportunities for trading investment even though the benefits from this expansion still low. Comparing with the rest of the Maghreb region, this slow improvement in trademarking and commerce moves the Moroccan and Tunisian proficiency experience in profitable level. So far the trademarking rolls between Libya, Mauritania, and Algeria are inconsiderable. Their substantial dependence on raw material, natural resources, and hesitation to involve in intra industry trade make it more complicated to increase trade marketing share among them even if they are willing to.

In term of trade marketing, Libya Mauritania and Algeria show the least their moves into regional commerce. Algeria’s trading with the rest of AMU members stays very low and weak, with its imports and exports reaching only 25 percent and 12 percent of their potential. In contrast, the Kingdom of Morocco has increased its export and import potential to all Maghreb states, except Algeria where Morocco ‘s exports have extended approximately 4 percent of their potential in the year 2015. additionally, Algeria’s exports to the Kingdom of Morocco have not reached 10 percent of their potential. Basically, the kingdom of Morocco is not willing to rely on Algerian extensive hydrocarbon products in which the kingdom needs to turn its pure phosphate into fertilizers.

This is quite superficial regarding the AMU failure and Western Sahara dispute forms the major impediment to the creation of AMU. It highlights the lack of sufficient cooperation between Morocco and Algeria since the so-called “Sand War” to put an end to their intricate relations. Western Sahara dispute basically pushes both states into regional rivalry and also represented a good political opportunity for Algeria and Morocco to set up their regional and superintendence supremacy.

Yes, as the King of Morocco pointed out in his last annual speech in African Union Summit: the failure of AMU is a tremendous failure of entire Arab Maghreb countries, also he noted ” we are very disappointed to see that the Maghreb Arab Union is the least integrated region in the African continent, if not in the entire world.” Hespress Newsmedia. If we do not immediately act, by following the example of neighboring African sub-regions, the Maghreb Union will destroy in its chronic insufficiency to reach up to the spirits of its creation.

The rise of Islamist groups in the Maghreb region made Morocco and Algeria rethink about their political strategy and reshape their foreign policy errors. Back to Algeria’s civil war in (1992-3) which dive Algerian society into a huge disaster, pushed it away from the Western Sahara conflict. In Morocco, the Islamic political Justice and development party (PDJ) rising success because of its great social interaction in Moroccan society.

Literally, the rise of Islamic groups, therefore, highlights the emergence both of plural political speech and awareness of states and arrival of violence, in the form of non- state actor or extremist acts, laid by the failure of political communities.

According to this, the western Sahara issue can’t be taken as the main interpretation of the failure of the regional integration strategy project in North Africa. Indeed, it declares the inefficiency of the countries in the region to set up a regular structure in sense of accumulating shared interests and collective profits.

In the end, Algeria’s deficiency holds serious security indications and suggestions for EU and the US. if it is incapable in doing many necessary reforms, it may give opportunities for extremists groups and non state actors to undermine the country, it’s hydrocarbon supplies to the Mediterranean countries, and safety of foreign investment in the region. Even though this might be a big loss at the current time. In fact, Algeria’s lack of political reforms has an influence on the other members of AMU in their efficiency, capacity, and productivity to promote mutual economic strategies. Thus, the International observers noticed by a terrorist threat and energy insecurity increasing Arab regional integration in North Africa, as its pushing the AMU’s foreign partners to cooperate and work hard through that case.

The real challenges to the AMU in the upcoming decades, the Kingdom of Morocco will sustain and upgrade its existence in the regional organization until finding its new partners across the AMU and develop its measured political and economic capacity out of unified Maghreb Union.

Dr. Jamal Ait Laadam, Specialist in North African and Western Sahara Issue, at Jilin University School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).

Middle East

Qatar World Cup offers lessons for human rights struggles

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It’s a good time, almost 12 years after the world soccer body, FIFA, awarded Qatar the 2022 World Cup hosting rights and five months before the tournament, to evaluate the campaign to reform the country’s erstwhile onerous labor system and accommodate fans whose lifestyles violate restrictive laws and/or go against deeply rooted cultural attitudes.

Ultimately the balance sheet shows a mixed bag even if one takes into account that Qatari autocracy has proven to be more responsive and flexible in responding to pressure by human rights and labour groups than its Gulf brothers in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

On the plus side, the initial wave of condemnation of the country’s repressive kafala labour system that put employees at the mercy of their employers persuaded Qatar to become the first Gulf state, if not the first Arab state, to engage with its critics.

Engagement meant giving human rights groups and trade unions access to the country, allowing them to operate and hold news conferences in Qatar, and involving them in drafting reforms and World Cup-related model labour contracts. This was unprecedented in a region where local activists are behind bars or worse and foreign critics don’t even make it onto an inbound flight.

The reforms were imperfect and not far-reaching enough, even if Qatar introduced significant improvements in the conditions for unskilled and semi-skilled workers.

Furthermore, on the plus side, the hosting rights sparked limited but nonetheless taboo-breaking discussions that touched on sensitive subjects such as LGBT rights and the granting of citizenship to non-nationals.

Qataris openly questioned the granting of citizenship to foreign athletes so they could be included in the Qatar national team for the 2016 Olympics rather than medical personnel and other professionals who had contributed to national welfare and development.

Hosting the World Cup has further forced Qatar, albeit in a limited fashion, to come to grips with issues like LGBT rights that do not simply violate the country’s laws but go against its social grain to produce an inclusive tournament.

In some ways, that may have been more difficult than reforming the labour regime if one considers the difference between standing up for democratic freedoms that may have broad public support and the recognition of LGBT rights. In contrast to democratic rights, opposition to LGBT rights is deeply engrained in Qatar and other Muslim societies. It would likely be socially rejected, even if they were enshrined in law.

The difference means that the defense of LGBT and other socially controversial rights forces activists and human and LGBT rights groups to rethink their strategies and adopt alternative, more long-term approaches.

It also means that they will have to embrace less Western-centric attitudes frequently prevalent in the campaign to reform Qatar’s labour system. Those attitudes were evident in debates that were also often skewed by bias, prejudice, bigotry, and sour grapes.

Moreover, the criticism often failed to consider the context. As a result, achieving results and pushing for reform was, to a degree, undermined by what appeared to be a ganging up on Qatar and a singling out of the Gulf state.

Labour is an example. Human rights groups and trade unions treated onerous labour conditions in Qatar, even if the World Cup turned it into a prime target, as uniquely Qatari rather than a global problem that manifests itself in other parts of the world such as Southeast Asia and even Western democracies like Britain. Recent reporting by The Guardian showed that expatriate medical and caregiver personnel face similar curtailing of rights and abuse in Britain.

By the same token, Qatar was taken to task for being slow in implementing its reforms and ensuring that they were applied not only to World Cup projects but nationwide.

The fact is that lagging enforcement of policies and legal changes is a problem across the broad spectrum of Qatari policies and reform efforts, including the Gulf state’s high-profile, fast-paced, mediation-driven foreign policy.

Qatar’s handling of illegal recruitment fees paid by workers is a case in point.

The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, the Qatari organizer of the World Cup, has obliged companies it contracts to repay the fees without workers having to provide proof of payment. Companies have so far pledged to repay roughly USD$28.5 million to some 49,000 workers, $22 million of which have already been paid out.

It is a step the government could apply nationally with relative ease to demonstrate sincerity and, more fundamentally, counter the criticism.

Similarly, in response to complaints raised by human rights groups and others, the government could also offer to compensate families of workers who die on construction sites. Again, none of these measures would dent Qatari budgets but would earn the Gulf state immeasurable goodwill.

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Middle East

‘Effort and patience’ required to restore Iran nuclear agreement

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A view from the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant in Iran. (file) Photo: IAEA/Paolo Contri

Despite diplomatic engagements, restoring the so-called Iran nuclear agreement continues to be hindered by political and technical differences, the UN political and peacebuilding chief told the Security Council on Thursday.
 

In the landmark accord, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – reached in 2015 between Iran, the United States, China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom – Iran agreed to dismantle much of its nuclear programme and open its facilities to international inspections in exchange for sanctions relief.

In 2018, then-President Trump withdrew the US from the agreement and reinstated the sanctions.

Achieving the landmark JCPOA took determined diplomacy. Restoring it will require additional effort and patience,” said UN political affairs chief, Rosemary DiCarlo.

Although the landmark Joint Commission to restore the Plan resumed in November 2021, she acknowledged that despite their determination to resolve the issues, the US and other participants are yet to return to “full and effective implementation of the Plan, and [Security Council] resolution 2231”.

Appealing to both

Together with the Secretary-General, she urged Iran and the US to “quickly mobilize” in “spirit and commitment” to resume cooperation under the JCPOA.

They welcomed the reinstatement by the US in February of waivers on nuclear non-proliferation projects and appealed to the country to lift its sanctions, as outlined in the Plan, and extend oil trade waivers.

Together they also called on on Iran to reverse the steps it has taken that are inconsistent with its nuclear-related commitments under the Plan.

Monitoring enrichment

While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been unable to verify the stockpile of enriched uranium in Iran, it estimates that there is currently more than 15 times the allowable amount under the JCPOA, including uranium enriched to 20 and 60 per cent, which Ms. DiCarlo called “extremely worrying”.

Moreover, on 8 and 20 June, IAEA reported that Iran had started to install additional advanced centrifuges at the Fuel Enrichment Plant at Natanz and began feeding uranium into advanced centrifuges at the Fuel Enrichment Plant at Fordow.

In his latest report, IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, informed the Council that the UN agency’s ability to verify and confirm the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear activities are key to the JCPOA’s full and effective implementation.

Iran’s decision to remove site cameras and place them and the data they collected under Agency seals, “could have detrimental implications”.

Improved relationships ‘key’

Bilateral and regional initiatives to improve relationships with Iran remain “key” and should be encouraged and built upon, according to Ms. DiCarlo.

Additionally, Member States and the private sector are urged to use available trade instruments to engage with Iran and Tehran is requested to address their concerns in relation to resolution 2231 (2015) on its nuclear issues.

The senior UN official also drew attention to annex B of the resolution, updating ambassadors in the Council on nuclear-related provisions, ballistic missiles and asset freezing.

We hope that diplomacy will prevail – UN political chief

Triumph for multilateralism

The JCPOA was a triumph for non-proliferation and multilateralism,” said the UN political affairs head.

However, after many years of uncertainty, she warned that the Plan is now at “a critical juncture” and encouraged Iran and the US to build on recent momentum to resolve remaining issues.

“The Secretary-General is convinced there is only one path to lasting peace and security for all Member States, and that is the one based on dialogue and cooperation,” she said.  “We hope that diplomacy will prevail”. 

In Iran’s best interest

Olof Skoog, Head of the European Union Delegation to the UN, speaking in his capacity as the Coordinator of the Joint Commission established by the JCPOA, to the Security Council, recognized the negative economic consequences that the US’ withdrawal from the JCPOA has had on Iran but affirmed that restoring the agreement is “the only way” for the country to reap its full benefits.

He reminded that the Plan would comprehensively lift sanctions, encourage greater international cooperation, and allow Iran to reach its “full economic potential”.  

“It is, therefore, important to show the necessary political will and pragmatism to restore the JCPOA,” said Ambassador Skoog who, while acknowledging the sense of urgency, counselled against “escalatory steps” and to preserve sufficient space for the diplomatic efforts to succeed.

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Middle East

Dynamic diplomacy: From SCO to BRICS

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Image source: Tehran Times

The tree of Iran’s balanced foreign policy approach is on the verge of being a one-year-old child. Stronger than before, Iran is pursuing dynamic diplomacy in a variety of cities such as Doha, Ashgabat, and other capitals. Baghdad will also join the list soon.

While Iran’s top negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani is engaged in intensive negotiations in Qatar with the United States through the European Union delegation, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and his oil and foreign ministers are in Ashgabat pursuing transit diplomacy as well as the legal regime of the Caspian Sea with the littoral states. 

Prior to his departure for Ashgabat on Wednesday, Raisi spoke to reporters about the purpose of his visit to Turkmenistan. 

“This visit is taking place at the invitation of the esteemed president of the brotherly and friendly country of Turkmenistan in order to attend the Caspian Sea littoral states summit,” he remarked.

The President called the Caspian Sea a common heritage and capital for the littoral states with more than 270 million people. 

“We have good relations with the littoral states of the Caspian Sea, but in addition to reviewing the legal regime of the Caspian Sea and peaceful use of the sea for the purpose of improving security at the sea, what will be discussed at the sixth summit of the Caspian Sea littoral states is cooperation between countries in the fields of transport, transit, trade, management of marine living resources, environment, as well as preventing the presence of outsiders in the sea, which is also agreed upon by all coastal countries.”

Prior to the beginning of the summit, Raisi met Serdar Berdimuhamedow, Turkmenistan’s President, as well as Chairman of the People’s Council of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.

During the meeting with the President of Turkmenistan, Raisi pointed out that the implementation of the memoranda of understanding and cooperation documents signed by the two countries during Berdimuhamedow’s recent visit to Tehran will accelerate promotion of cooperation between the two countries.

Later, Raisi met with the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev. 

During the meeting, Raisi reminded Aliyev that the presence of the Israeli regime in any part of the world undermines security there.

The president also had a brief meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the summit. 

There’s little doubt that Tehran has not put all its eggs into the basket of the JCPOA revival, as it actively seeks to establish trade relations with the neighbors. It’s short-sighted thinking to assume that Iran has to wait for the United States to return to the JCPOA, while it can enjoy the benefits of regional alliances such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), or BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). 

On Monday, Iran’s former Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, who was holding his last presser, told the Tehran Times correspondent that Tehran has submitted a membership request to the BRICS secretariat via Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian. While dynamically trailing balanced and active diplomacy with the neighbors, Tehran is awaiting Washington’s serious political decisions to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Source: Tehran Times

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